Barbara Owen

CBF Employee 1961 – 1979, Organ consultant, editor and historian

Barbara Owen placing pipes in the Oberwerk at Opus 79 Charleston, WV

Barbara placing pipes in the Oberwerk at Opus 79 Charleston, WV

Photo: Robert Cornell

Early in 1965 I was helping CBF with the finishing of the organ in Christ Church, Westerly and we were staying down there in the homes of church people. Now those Westerly folks were a bunch of party animals, and one of the biggest party-throwers was a feisty senior citizen known to everyone as “Grandma.” I forget her real name (if I ever knew it) but we were told that she had inherited the Studebaker fortune and was having a great time blowing it on parties and travel to exotic places. She also funded for a big chunk of the organ project — I think she paid for the new balcony.

So one morning after we had arrived at the church to work, George “Bunky” Kent informed us that Grandma was having a Mardi Gras party that evening (apparently she usually announced parties on whim and short notice) and we were invited — but everyone had to come in costume! Needless to say, we had not come prepared with costumes, but Grandma’s word was law, so we had to come up with something. During mugup (Gloucester fishermen’s term for “Coffee on the deck” still used at the Fisk shop) we got an idea, and ransacked the church’s vestment collection. Charlie found a black cassock, and I found a red altar boy vestment and surplice. To add the finishing touches, he borrowed a white shirt and put it on backwards under the cassock to look like a clerical collar, and I slicked back my hair so it looked like a boy’s and found a candle-snuffer to carry. The final inspiration was an impressive pectoral cross that Charlie manufactured from leftover bellows chain and pipe metal scraps. “Father Fisk and Acolyte” were thus ready to make a solemn ecclesiastical entrance at Grandma’s party — which, like all Westerly parties, was great fun.

A further note on Westerly: It was the only Fisk organ dedication where a good part of the non-local audience arrived from Boston on a chartered train (the church is just a short walk from the train station).

Charlie Fisk and Barbara Owen at her 39th birthday

Charlie and Barbara Owen at her 39th birthday

Photo: Robert Cornell